Joseph Somoza

Sojourner, So to Speak


6 x 8 inches

104 pages

ISBN: 1-888809-04-3



Sojourner, So to Speak is a collection of disarming poems by an Asturian-American which “speak” like map ponderings along the route of blue highways. His slightly estranged journey follows neighborhood streets to downtown hotels and interstates toward a zen that is not Zen, but a muse found by singing in a lawnchair in a backyard in Las Cruces. Events of daily life get recorded from a still center amidst the flux of our vida loca. It has been said that the Spanish poet Antonio Machado perfected his poetry on long walks and patios—the inner world found in the outer experience through the art of seeing. Joe Somoza’s poems opens us up, as well, from similar encounters or, like classic Chinese poets such as T’ao Ch’ien or Tu-Fu, in domestic observance are the quiet profundities which cause even dust to glow. With lively and honest eloquence, Somoza directly invites readers to engage as participants in sly witness to the paths around us. Using spare language precise in construction, the agile wit of these poems converses with the reader by glimpse and sagacity.

Joe Somoza’s sharp, quirky, luminescent poems have an Asturian bite. As in the ‘Fewest moments of daylight. / Tiny red-throated finches / flick / in the bird seed, / and I’m warm again.’ Joe’s poems live at the intersection between the ephemeral and the eternal.

—Arthur Sze

It is a delight to read a book of poems so rooted and factual. Joe Somoza’s ‘backyard’ musings are of the ordinary things—close at hand—cats or trees or things more abstract that occur to him there. But it is not simply one backyard, from Las Cruces, New Mexico, to Chicago, even furtively New York. He puts it best himself: ‘Where I’m going / is not necessarily my destination.’

—Theodore Enslin

From quietness like poet Joe Somoza’s the real sound emerges. It curls along, close to the page. You can read it like a fox reads the fields. Joe’s poems proceed with slyness and elegance down-to-earth down the white page, like fox-tracks in the snow…Here’s the last few lines of "The Hidden Picture": ‘Inside, / it’s darker and piled / with books. Or inside the car— / the landscape hurries past, / to where it was, content / to be itself again. /Whereas we / keep frantically arriving.’ Beautiful, wry circles. Probably cooked up by that dove they have down in Las Cruces that calls 'who cooks for you?'

—Jack Collom

Joseph Somoza was born in Asturias, northern Spain, grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey; Chicago; and Cincinnati. He studied at the Writers Workshop, University of Iowa, after having discovered contemporary literature by reading On The Road his freshman year of pre-med at Loyola University. He taught English and creative writing classes in Texas, Puerto Rico, and at New Mexico State University, from where he recently retired after twenty-two years. While at NMSU, he helped to resuscitate the literary magazine Puerto del Sol and was one of its poetry editors for fourteen years. Besides Sojourner, So To Speak, he has published five books and chapbooks of poetry, including Out Of This World (Cinco Puntos Press, 1990), has published poems in 90 or so magazines and anthologies, and has done readings of his poems in more than one hundred venues across the country, including at Cody’s (Berkeley), The Ear Inn (New York), The Green Mill (Chicago), and The Living Batch Bookstore (Albuquerque). He has been married happily to Jill Somoza, a painter, for 34 years. They have three children who grew up in the same, plain house with a magnificent back yard where the couple continue to live and work on their art.